A white bus parked in front of a brick building.

Homeless in RI: Dignity (Bus) arrives as Woonsocket says “together, we can do this”

Dignity Bus R.I. arrived Wednesday morning

Two days on the road from Florida, 4 men brought The Dignity Bus to Woonsocket. Driving into the grounds of Holy Family Church on Main Street in Woonsocket, the bus was greeted by a “gaggle” of press, and the chief greeter, VP of the Woonsocket City Council, Valerie Gonzalez. Gonazalez husband is the pastor of the church and also the pastor of the Woonsocket Police Department.

It was speaking the word of “greater powers at work” between the Woonsocket people and The Source Ministries in Florida, red tape managed to be put aside and the path was cleared for the Dignity Bus to come to Woonsocket to help with the homeless crisis.

Over the next few days the staff of The Source, led by its Executive Director Tony Zorbough will train all those in Rhode Island who need to learn how to care for and operate the bus. They will also share programmatic lessons they’ve learned by operating the program in Florida.

While The Source has an evangelical core in Florida, so much so that a larger-than-life portrait of Jesus in flowing white robes usually is “wrapped” around the bus, Rhode Island’s will be plain vanilla – or white – along with beautiful lettering in a scroll script that says, “Destiny Bus R.I.”.

The inside of the bus is electric blue lit, warm, and inviting. At its max it will sleep 22. Approximately half of the documented homeless in the northern Rhode Island city. The program will be run by the Community Care Alliance, with Benedict Lessing, executive director.

Notably, standing off to the side at the afternoon press conference was Neil Steinberg, former CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation who was at the beginning of Rhode Island learning about what a Dignity Bus is doing in Florida, and what it might do here in Rhode Island.

From The Source just prior to leaving for RI: “Leaders from The Source, a local Christian outreach ministry, are preparing to journey more than 1,300 miles to Rhode Island to deliver the agency’s third “Dignity Bus.” The bus will serve as an emergency shelter to the homeless population in Woonsocket, expanding The Source’s services from Vero Beach to a national level.

The first two Dignity Buses continue to run as emergency shelters for those in need in Vero Beach.

“This will prevent the homeless from sleeping on city benches and sidewalks. It took us eight years to get to this point,” the agency’s executive director Anthony Zorbaugh said. “Every human being has value. Every life has value regardless of your race, religion or sexual orientation.”

Community leaders gathered Tuesday morning at the Vero Beach City Hall and the Vero Beach Police Department to wish those traveling on the bus a safe journey. Representatives from The Source will head north on July 17 to Woonsocket, hold a two-day training session for the nonprofit Community Care Alliance that will operate the bus, and then fly back to Vero Beach July 21.”

The Source received a proclamation Tuesday morning from the city of Vero Beach as the nonprofit launched its third Dignity Bus to RI.

“We couldn’t have done it without these amazing individuals. We’re proud to be able to do this in our community. Hopefully stay tuned and there will be more buses coming across the country.”

Some of these hidden figures include members Kyle McNeill, 60, of Vero Beach, Anthony Rommell, 40, of Melbourne, and Confesor Gonzalez, 65, of Vero Beach. All were previously homeless and now are employed at The Source. The city council awarded the men for converting the old Greyhound coach bus into an emergency shelter. The bus is equipped with 20 beds, each with an outlet and light switch.

“It’s humbling,” said McNeill, who said he used to sleep on the first Dignity Bus that was launched by The Source two years ago in Vero Beach.

The bus also has a fireplace and air conditioning. It took the three men four weeks to convert the bus into an emergency shelter.

The Source’s Development Director Jonathan Orozco, along with Zorbaugh, McNeill, Rommell and Gonzalez will make the journey on the Dignity Bus to Woonsocket. The Source sold the bus to the city of Woonsocket for $150,000 and Community Care Alliance is the non-profit provider, Zorbaugh said.

The Source is planning to expand the Dignity Bus to more cities including Jacksonville and Chicago.

The Source operates two Dignity Buses in Vero Beach, including one previously located in Palm Bay before it was relocated to Vero Beach. A crowd of about 50 people gathered inside the city council chambers as The Source leaders, board of directors and members were recognized.

Mayor John Cotugno read the proclamation, saying it was a proud moment for The Source and the entire community. Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey said the nonprofit’s work toward making sure the less fortunate have a dignified place to sleep is all about humanity.

“We think it’s great. We have a long-standing relationship with Zorbaugh,” Currey said. “There are many resources to get help. The Source is a big part of that.”

The crowd then walked across the street to the police department, where they enjoyed a tour of the bus, along with sandwiches and juice provided by the agency’s Dignity Food Truck. A group of about 20 people placed their hands on the side of the bus as Wayne Traverse, vice-president of the board at The Source and a pastor at Walton Road Baptist Church in Port St. Lucie, prayed for a safe journey.

“We pray for traveling mercies for this bus, but so much more for the lives that will be transformed through this, including each and every one of us here right now,” Traverse said.

Zorbaugh said the motto for The Source is that it’s “not a handout or a hand up, we’re a hand in.”

“When everybody has their hands in, the community works,” Zorbaugh said. “Each and every one of us…if we have our hands in the community, we can change the community.”

The Source recently partnered with the city of Vero Beach for its Community Works Program, where members work three days a week to restore Pocahontas Park in downtown. The agency also has other programs for its members including the Dining with Dignity culinary employability training, Dignity Catering and Dignity Food Trucks, the Dignity Village that will provide 19 affordable housing units to residents upon opening, mental health services, bible study sessions and adult literacy meetings, to name a few.

“Our main purpose is to uplift the homeless so they can uplift themselves…put them in the public eye,” Orozco said. “They are people who just fell down on their luck. Give them an opportunity.”

Steve, a homeless man in the northern RI area:

Click on the link below to watch the Facebook video:


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  1. LM on July 20, 2023 at 11:01 pm

    What a wonderful, heart-warming story! This State absolutely has to get involved and do the same. We have a huge budget with no cuts. Try cutting some of the useless things (there’s a lot!) and get a couple of these buses.
    Winter isn’t far away – they need shelter and some privacy. The summer is half over yet the State has failed to deliver.